Friday, August 13, 2010

Seeing A Familiar Place In A New Light

The Helen Carlson Wildlife Sanctuary is owned by the Mattabeseck Audubon Society and has been opened to the public since the 1970's. I walked along the edge of the trail Saturday morning and found that it was loaded with frogs. The sound of their splashing, dunking and diving provided an exotic percussion which was accompanied by the sound of a Carolina Wren trumpeting its lively song in the background. I encountered a few other interesting birds during my walk including a Wood Thrush and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Frogs were jumping across my path during my walk but I barely got a look at them before they would disappear from view. I finally had an eye level view of one with its head peeking out of the water. I found it unusual that not one mosquito landed on me all day. Where did they all go?
The Helen Carlson Sanctuary is a wonderful place but I've never found it particularly appealing as a birding spot. It has a trail with a boardwalk but part of the boardwalk is flooded over. A lot of times I will pull off on the side of the road when I'm on my way from point A to point B and give the bog a quick scan to see what's around. I'll usually see a few ducks or geese, Red-winged Blackbirds, lots of vegetation, and a handful of familiar birds. The viewing platform they built a couple of years ago is impressive but what is there to view? I soon found out the answer to that question. A scope can provide a wonderful view of birds but I've never enjoyed lugging them around. How appetizing would a buffet be If you had to drag your table and chair with you as you filled your plate with food? When I reached the top level of the platform there were two chairs available. It was such a nice change to be able to sit down in comfort and do a thorough search of the area. The first birds that caught my attention were a pair of Eastern Kingbirds. They were were landed on various perches near the center of the bog. It presented me with a great opportunity to sketch because they stayed at each location for a good length of time before moving to the next location. During the day Red-tailed Hawks soared over head and Red-shouldered Hawks called out from deep in the forest. I found these feathers on the ground and by the size and color I'm taking a guess that they're Wild Turkey feathers.
The next time I go, I'll be sure to bring a butterfly field guide. because there were many. The ones I recognized were Monarch, Viceroy, and one of the brushfoots-not sure which one. At first, this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was showing its underside...
... but eventually showed its true colors. The butterflies all seemed to be attracted to this plant. Do you know what kind it is? Hopefully, I'm not admiring another invasive plant. I seem to have a talent for that.
The best viewing from the platform came in the late afternoon when the sun was to my back and the viewing area was lit up with the golden glow of summer. I could see bird movement in the tree tops along the shoreline. I probably wouldn't have been able to see these birds if I was directly under them but the view through my scope from the platform was awesome! Here is a brief description of some of the birds I heard or saw:
  • As the sun started to move close to the horizon, two Green Herons emerged from a hidden area within the bog and landed in tree close to the shore. They announced there presence with squawks so loud that it overpowered all other noise in the area (photo from 09). It seems they are attracted to places that have a lot of frogs.

  • I heard the sound pa-chang call of a Scarlet Tanager but was unable to locate it.

  • Besides the Eastern Kingbirds there were also Eastern Phoebes, a Great-crested Flycatchers, and Eastern Wood Pewees in the area.

  • I viewed a male Belted Kingfisher just as it left its branch and plunged into the water below.

  • Great Blue Herons flew across the water and changed their perch locations from time to time.

  • A flock of about a dozen Cedar Waxwings flew just over my head as they crossed the bog.

  • dozens of Chimney Swifts appeared and entertained me with their odd flight patterns.

  • I could see a Red-bellied Woodpecker as it attempted to remove a round, reddish object from a hollowed out area of a branch. After several attempts, the woodpecker was unable to pull the object out from the top so it finally pushed it upward from a hole on the underside of the branch. It could have been a very colorful acorn or some sort of fruit-hard to be sure but very interesting to watch.
  • A singing Baltimore Oriole landed in the very top of a tree at the back edge of the bog. There was only enough sunlight left to illuminate the very top of the tree where the oriole was perched. The contrast of the brilliant orange and black of the oriole with the dark woods beneath created a breathtaking view. The scene was like a living diorama with built in lighting effects to illuminate the birds.

My weekend visit to the Helen Carlson Bog gave me a new appreciation of a place that I thought I already knew so well. I also discovered a more enjoyable way of using a scope for birdwatching. I'm looking forward to returning for some more late afternoon birdwatching and after the sun sets, maybe I'll even wait for the stars to come out.

click to play -Eastern Kingbird flies away from its perch.


Lana Gramlich said...

Bogs are usually wonderful places for wildlife of various kinds--at least they are down here, but then again, everywhere's a bog down here...
I used to raise turkeys--those are definitely turkey feathers.
Perhaps the flowers your swallowtail's on are some kind of Northern bog button?
Glad your visit turned out so fruitful! Some awesome sights!

Andy said...

A good birding day

Larry said...

Lana-We don't have as many bogs up here as you do down your way.-I'll have take a look at those bog buttons.

Andy-yes indeed

Chris said...

Well sometime some location can be a surprise, even if you do not expect them to be good birding place... You saw quite a lot there ;-)

Harold Stiver said...

Looks like you had a great day.

Larry said...

Chris-the key ws that I stayin one spot.I don't often have the patience for that.

Erica Houskeeper said...

Hi Larry -- What a terrific photo of the frog! I love it. Hope you're having a nice summer.

Summit Camping Gear said...

The photos are absolutely amazing. Any time I try getting out for some day adventures I never have such luck.

Excellent post!